We're bombarded with news stories about how everyone is moving to Montana. Housing prices are skyrocketing from Bozeman to Flathead and many of the less glamourous areas of the state are growing too.

The US Census Bureau released an infographic last week (3/24) breaking down population growth and decline by county for the entire United States from 2020 to 2021. You can see lots of people moving out of a large portion of the Midwest (purple squares), parts of the South, and two counties in California. The graph indicates a lot of people were moving to the Rocky Mountain West (green squares). In many counties, the population loss is from something the Census Bureau calls "natural decrease", which is simply fewer babies being born to replace deaths.

Credit: U.S. Census Bureau
Credit: U.S. Census Bureau
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Not every county in Montana is growing.

Three counties in Montana experienced a population decline of at least 1.6% and three more counties have lost .5 to 1.5% of their population in just one year. These numbers may not seem significant at first glance, but they can equate to hundreds of people. It could also indicate places in Montana where housing is still somewhat affordable. Keep reading to see which counties are shrinking the most in Montana.

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1. Richland County, MT

Bordering North Dakota, in the northeast corner of Montana, the largest city in Richland County is Sidney. With a population decline of at least 1.6%, Richland County lost at least 183 residents in one year. A 3 bed/3 bath home in Sidney is currently listed for $250,000.

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2. Rosebud County, MT

Home to the communities of Forsyth and Colstrip, Rosebud County lost 133 residents from 2020 to 2021. With just over 8,000 people in the entire county, you'll find lots of wide-open spaces to spread out in Rosebud County. A nice 4 bed/2 bath home in Colstrip is listed for $249,900.

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3. Wheatland County, MT

Wheatland County is down 33 people in one year, leaving just over 2,000 residents in the county. Harlowton is the biggest community, with just 1,170 people calling it home. A charming 3 bed/2 bath bungalow recently went under contract with a listing price of $148,000.

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4. Liberty County, MT

Halfway between Shelby and Havre on Highway 2, and bordering Canada to the north, Liberty County's population fell between .5 and 1.5% in one year, leaving around 1,930 residents spread across 915,189 acres. Three small homes are currently on the market in Chester (the County Seat) and all are priced well below $100,000.

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5. Big Horn County, MT

The 5th largest county in Montana is also one of the least populated, with around 13,124 residents. It experienced a decline of between .5 and 1.5% percent from 2020 to 2021. Homes in Hardin have been selling for around $200,000 or if you'd prefer to build your dream cabin near the world-famous trout habitat of the Big Horn River, 1/4 acre lots near Fort Smith are listed for a mere $15,000.

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6. McCone County, MT

McCone County also lost between .5 and 1.5% of it's population year to year, leaving around 1,700 residents. With Fort Peck Reservoir to the west and some of the best big game hunting in the state, McCone County is a sportsman's paradise. I couldn't find any homes currently on the market in the county but across the county line in Wolf Point, this 4 bed/2 bath home is listed at $195,000.

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